Viking runners getting in shape for season

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan Athletes and coaches of the Cambridge-South Dorchester cross country team gathered at the school’s track for practice last week.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Athletes and coaches of the Cambridge-South Dorchester cross country team gathered at the school’s track for practice last week.

CAMBRIDGE — At Cambridge-South Dorchester, runners are preparing for one of the most grueling sports offered by high schools — cross country running. Athletes cover a course of three miles or five kilometers (3.1 miles), depending on where they are competing, dealing with the peculiarities of terrain and weather as they go.

Racing on a track, like many of these students do in winter and spring track and field season, is different. It’s uniform, it’s predictable, and times are generally faster.

But the longest race in track and field is 3,200 meters, or about two miles. And cross country runners have to deal with all sorts of surfaces, including, on some courses, roads, grass, dirt, a track, mud, sticks, and all the rest.

“Mud, sticks and all the rest” is a pretty good way to describe C-SD’s home course, known among Eastern Shore teams as “The Jungle.” It is a path hacked in many places – yes, hacked – by Coach Sean Reincke and other volunteers several years ago, in the county’s Egypt Road Park, across from Maple Elementary School.

With fields, forests, mud and bugs, it’s the real thing, and therefore a challenging and popular test of endurance and plain old toughness.
“We have about 40 kids right now, and half of them are rookies,” Coach Reincke said Friday afternoon as the runners gathered for practice.
That’s a lot of rookies, and a good sign for the future. Last year, coaches decided it was time to reset team culture – something like, “If you don’t want to run, go home.”

After all, it’s not an easy sport. While it’s great that everyone competes every meet, over the same course, that also means the less motivated find that there are no days off.

So goodbye.

When the new plan became known, “Last year, we had about 15 kids who did not return,” Coach Reincke said. And guess what – the atmosphere improved a great deal, everyone worked hard and had a good time.

Go figure, right?

So now, the number of runners is back up, and they have good examples among their teammates. “The veterans are incredibly solid as a group,” Coach Reincke said.

They are led by boys’ captains Connor McCroy and Sammy Slacum, and girls’ captains Carrie Price and Sarah Condon.

They are leading by example, crucial in a sport that just hurts long before a runner spots the finish line. “The rookies are watching the vets,” Coach Reincke said.

Junior Sarah Condon is challenging herself more than ever this season, showing the rookies that coaches can’t do it all. “Now, I feel like I should get a certain time,” she said.

Considering the changes they went through last year, the team did pretty well. Though neither the boys nor the girls won the region, they did qualify for the state championships, where they placed in the top half.

The Vikings will meet county rivals the North Dorchester High School Eagles in a scrimmage on Aug. 29. The following Wednesday, Sept. 5, the Vikes’ 2018 campaign begins at Kent Island High School. Racing starts at 4 p.m.

Carrie Price has run cross country as well as track and field throughout her high school career. Now that she is a senior and looking at her last hurrah, she knows what hard work can do to achieve goals.

“The older you get, the more meaningful it becomes,” she said.

On Sept. 12, the Vikings will again be on the road, facing Parkside in Salisbury at 4 p.m.

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